The latest from the Black Country 

Black Country Chamber of Commerce Budget Wish List

KeithBryan2016With the budget being a few days away, Keith Bryan, Chief Executive of the Black Country Chamber of Commerce, has outlined the main business asks from the region.

"The budget needs to focus on three issues: rebalancing the economy, improving productivity across the Midlands Engine and making it easier to do business.

“I recall when the Airports Commission was launched, one of its expected outcomes was to rebalance the economy. Supporting the development of a transport interchange bringing together HS2 and Birmingham airport will do more to rebalance the economy and improve aviation congestion in the South East at a fraction of the cost of the third runway. At a time of austerity the Chancellor needs to count every penny and we hope he has the courage to signal a more cost effective way of upgrading our transport infrastructure.

“The Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills has referred to the £34 billion productivity gap in the Midlands. We hope that the Chancellor will honour his commitment to Midlands Connect (linking transport across the Midlands to economic corridors) and find a way to negotiate with the new owners of the M6 Toll, making it free for use for ‘through-freight’ significantly improving congestion in the wider region.

“A more entrepreneurial and productive Midlands is needed for a ‘Britain carried aloft by the march of the makers’ (George Osborne – 2012 Budget speech) and would mean more tax revenues for the Chancellor. However, we need some steps to make it easier to do business in the UK. The announcement by Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills to further reduce ‘red-tape’ is welcome and we have noticed that SME owners seem to be more content with local regulatory services such as Trading Standards. Where they still have a problem is with the national regulators. Simplification of the business rates and corporation tax regimes would be welcome, together with the acceptance that small businesses are not the perpetrators of significant tax evasion and should not be made to feel to be the focus of HMRC’s attention. The business tax roadmap and digitalisation should be about making things easy for an SME; not an additional burden.

“SME owners are still telling me that the existing government schemes for improving access to finance are not working. Although we welcome developments on the British Business Bank, we would welcome ways by which businesses can secure loan finance which includes an element of investment readiness. The Black Country has a scheme that could fit into this category and will result in greater investment in capital. An increase in the annual investment allowance would be complementary or indeed an acknowledgement of the high energy costs of manufacturers that do not qualify under the Energy Intensive Industry criteria set up for the steel industry.

“Many of our members are full of praise for HMRC when it comes to R&D tax credits: the Chancellor could look at the methodology to encourage greater investment in exporting at a time when trade documentation in the UK is 2.5% less than it was just over a year ago. Furthermore, rebranding all training as an apprenticeship might reach the overall target of 3 million, but it will do nothing to match supply and demand for skilled people. Tax credits that encompass all forms of training may well encourage greater business investment in workforce development and high performance work practices.

“We believe that addressing these issues could bring up to £6 billion into the Black Country economy by end 2023.

"The other areas we expect to be covered at the budget (but do not necessarily welcome) include acknowledgement of the state of the oil and gas sector, more on the international framework for taxation of multinationals, a tightening of employment taxes, the new dividends tax, a rise in fuel duty, simplification of IHT and a cut in relief for higher rate pension contributions (as a precursor to the delayed review of pensions).”

Last modified on Monday, 14 March 2016 15:27

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